It all started when 21-year-old Phub Dorji wanted to forget the miserable life he was going through and found solace in drinking and abusing drugs with his friends. This was sometime in 2011.

Phub was devastated when his adoptive father, who was a sole bread earner, passed away. He was studying in class IX in Khasadrapchu School in Thimphu. “I almost got into depression. Although my elder sister had a small job, it wasn’t enough to meet the ends.”

Without proper guidance and care, Phub who is from Khasaka, Mewang gewog in Thimphu, found himself spending more time with friends. The curiosity to experiment drugs when he saw his friends abusing substance and drinking alcohol landed himself as an addict before he could realise.

“I started with alcohol first, then marijuana, and then with the chemical drugs like N10 and Sp+,” Phub recalled. “I did all these for fun, the fun that I didn’t know would be ruining my life.”

Although he made several attempts to stop everything, his mother could not help him continue his education after class X. This led him to abuse more drugs.

Then he realised that he needed money to buy drugs from Jaigaon, bordering town in Phuentsholing. That was when Phub Dorji for the first time decided to break into a house with his friends and stole Nu 38,000.  Then it became a habit. He later broke into another house and stole Nu about 100,000.

“We used to use all the money to buy drugs. By then, we even knew the source; it was easy. I regret now. I could have looked for a job and earned a descent income,” Phub Dorji said.

However, life took U turn when police arrested him in 2013 while returning to Thimphu from Phuentsholing. He was sentenced to a year-and-six months and was sent to juvenile detention centre in Tsimasham. That was the hardest time he ever experienced. He did not have access to the drugs, had withdrawal symptoms, became sick, and could not control his addiction. He was going through counselling in life skills training at the centre.

Phub Dorji today works as a park manager for Centenary Park in Thimphu and looks after a small food stall. He said he took three months to completely recover. It was then that he promised to himself that he would stop everything and start life anew. He then took an opportunity to go to school in Chukha Central School because the juveniles get a chance to continue. However, it was not an easy journey. He had to go through discriminations in the school.

“But, this time, I didn’t let such things affect me even though I was sad. I instead decided to prove myself and worked hard. Teachers later appreciated me for my hard work; I took part in all kinds of co-curricular activities, studied hard, gained confidence and I even got the best student award.”

Phub even got a scholarship after Class XII by the end of his prison term. But he was deprived of the scholarship because he did not have citizenship identity card because he did not have his biological father’s details.

“I was completely shattered, but I had to stay strong. I applied for the identity card. In 2018, one of my friends helped me get a job as a park manager through Nazhoen Lamten.”

Waiting with the hope that he would one day get an identity card to pursue education, Phub is now leading a decent good life earning about Nu 10,000 helping run the food stall that belongs to Nazhoen Lamten. He spends his time at Vast Bhutan to make use of his passion for arts. He also earns from the art with the help of Vast.

Phub Dorji said that it is never late to start a new life; hard work and determination are all that matter.

“I’ve learned my lesson and my message to younger ones abusing substance abuse is that they only destroy our lives. Hope is the best thing we ever have and work hard. I plan to look after my adoptive mother and sister and open a café one day.”

Yangchen C Rinzin